Thousands of trees to be given to tornado victims this weekend. How to get yours

Thousands of trees were destroyed in the Memorial Day tornadoes including a large number at Wegerzyn Garden MetroPark in Dayton. STAFF/AMELIA ROBINSON
Thousands of trees were destroyed in the Memorial Day tornadoes including a large number at Wegerzyn Garden MetroPark in Dayton. STAFF/AMELIA ROBINSON

Five Rivers MetroParks is giving away thousands of locally-grown tree seedlings this weekend to remind the community of the perseverance it has demonstrated since the Memorial Day tornadoes last year.

To help reforest areas that were damaged by the tornadoes, Five Rivers’ Healing Nature initiative will take place on Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, located at 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave. in Dayton.

The initiative is designed to assist property owners and communities in Montgomery County that were impacted by the tornadoes with tree replacement and habitat restoration.

Trees will be distributed in a drive-thru style so people can remain in their vehicles while being assisted by MetroParks staff. Seedlings will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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“Wegerzyn, that was really our one park that received a lot of damage from the tornadoes,” said Beth Burke, Five Rivers interpretation coordinator. “Just seeing how many trees were destroyed at that park and looking around the surrounding areas and realizing, you see all these really giant trees that are just completely wiped out.”

There will be 21 native species to choose from, all grown locally at The Barbara Cox Center for Sustainable Horticulture at Cox Arboretum MetroPark. The seedlings grown at the center are typically distributed to different MetroParks to help replace invasive tree species that have been removed.

“We have these trees available and we weren’t going to be able to make a difference just within our parks, but we could make a difference outside of our park boundaries by providing these trees to the homeowners and to the people who have lost all of their vegetation," Burke said.

Community members will be able to select up to three seedlings that will come in easy-to-handle containers with directions on how to plant and care for them. A list of the available tree seedlings, along with information about each species is available at metroparks.org/healing-nature.

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“Five Rivers MetroParks has a specific long-term role to play in efforts to recover from the tornadoes, which is restoring lost habitat,” said Becky Benna, Five Rivers MetroParks' executive director. “An untold number of trees, shrubs and other plants critical to our region’s wildlife and natural heritage were lost during the storms. It’s important we replant in the areas where so many were lost to tornado damage.”

Between 3,000 and 4,000 seedlings will be available at the giveaway event. Though proof of residence is not required, Burke requested that people remember that MetroParks wants to give priority to those who lost vegetation to the tornadoes.

“The area has been hit with a lot over the past couple years and I think emotionally, it just helps that healing process to just see new trees being planted and know the community is coming back to life and returning to what was once there,” Burke said. “It’s a nice healing process for everyone.”